It may seem like I've been doing a lot of hating on Stephen Hill lately. Believe me, it's not like I don't like the pick or recognize the upside, but it seems that this years' draft class is unusually deep at receiver and to not at least explore other options would be downright foolish. The Georgia Tech receiver is still one of my favorite players to watch and the fact that the Jaguars have expressed interest in him at all has me sweating a little bit.
The title may also be a little misleading. I am in no way, shape or form advocating the selection of Greg Childs from Arkansas twentieth overall. He's a good player, but first round material? Nope. Nuh-uh. Not gonna happen. However, every year there are fantastic players who see their otherwise promising draft stocks take a huge hit due to some sort of freak injury. Greg Childs is one of those players.
The first thing I ask myself is "what makes me think the Titans will draft a receiver in the first place?" Simply put, because it's smart, and the Titans have a front office that prides itself on being smart. For the umpteenth time, the NFL is a league where your success is determined by your ability to pass and your ability to defend the pass. Also creating turnovers, but that comes with the territory. Now, to maximize the potential of our passing game, especially with a young quarterback in place, we must bring in players who are designed to do that, in this case a young, talented receiver whose value goes beyond athletic skill (more on that later).
I am completely sold on the idea of taking a receiver early (meaning rounds 1-3). You can never have enough talent at the position. There is a case to be made for the quarterback making the receiver corp what it is, and to some extent that may be true, but I think that it's more of a group effort than this school of thought is willing to admit.
Enter Greg Childs. I've said it before and I'll say it again: the NFL Draft is all about value, and I think Childs represents a lot of hidden value. In a normal year, Childs would probably be ranked a lot higher on the boards than he is this year, but as I said before, it's an incredibly deep year for wide receivers. From top to bottom, this is a very, very solid class with a lot of potential. Most draft sites have Childs ranked somewhere in the low-mid teens. I think that's a fair assessment given the severity of his injury that he suffered in 2010. The condensed version of the story so far on Childs is that his entire future is decided by the fate of his knee. During the 2011 season, he looked like a lost cause. He was basically a shell of his former self. He did little to alleviate fears that he may be finished at the combine, running just a 4.55 in the 40 yard dash. Then came Arkansas' Pro Day and the East-West Shrine Game. Childs ran a 4.39 and looked a lot more like the Childs of old as early as the Razorbacks' matchup with Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl. He didn't make a lot of noise, but these signs of recovery are extremely significant to any team who may want to consider drafting him in the third or fourth round.
So what do we love about Childs? Physically, he's got it all, size, vert, speed, and hands. None of them are particularly outstanding, but all are pretty much top end in terms of what you look for in a receiver. But beyond that, he's a very good technical receiver. He tracks the ball well on deep routes, takes the ball at its' highest point, knows where the sideline is, and shields the ball from defenders. But he's not just a deep ball weapon, Childs excels on slant routes, and most other routes for that matter. His movement in and out of his cuts is a thing of beauty. His hands are exceptional and he favors catching the ball with them over bringing it into his body. This is not a one trick pony, this is a complete wide receiver. I love that all of this can be had in the fourth round. Injury be damned, this is a guy worth risking a pick on. The torn patella makes him a pretty big gamble, but this isn't a guy who just relied on freaky athleticism to get the job done, he was a technician from the start. There's certainly a case to be made for a player who not only posses elite athletic traits but is also as fundamentally sound as Childs is.
Just as a small note on the patella injury that he suffered, (warning, personal anecdote time) I have seen this type of injury before and most of the time, doctors don't let their patients return to action before the knee is roughly 90% as strong as it was before. I have no idea what the procedure is for future NFL players, but at the high school level, trainers and other medical professionals are making sure that their players are almost fully healed before giving them the thumbs up. Take this unfounded report for what it's worth which is, admittedly, not a whole lot.
In conclusion, it's time to take another gamble. Time to dive into the third round and take a potential game-breaking receiver. Studies show that receiver is one of the most difficult positions in the NFL to scout. The risk associated with first round receivers is well documented, so as far as I'm concerned, the less we have to give up to take one, the better. I'd be perfectly happy with Stephen Hill or Alshon Jeffery in the first round, but I also love the idea of taking a Greg Childs or a Marvin Jones later on.